When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.
So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.
Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.
That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.
Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.
The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.
While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.
But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.
Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.
That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.
This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.
The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.
In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Willie Rogers, the oldest living Tuskegee Airman, passed away Nov. 18. He was 101.
According to reports from FoxNews.com and the Huffington Post, Rogers died from complications after a recent stroke.
Rogers served in the 100th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group. He wasn’t one of the pilots, though. Instead, Rogers specialized in administration and logistics, according to the Huffington Post. He was wounded during a January 1943 mission.
Fliers of a P-51 Mustang Group of the 15th Air Force in Italy “shoot the breeze” in the shadow of one of the Mustangs they fly. Left to right: Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan Jr., Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelson Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence P. Lester. Ca. August 1944. (Courtesy National Archives)
According to the National Museum of the US Air Force, almost 1,000 Tuskegee pilots were trained to fight in World War II, and over 350 were deployed to the front lines. Over 16,000 other personnel were trained to serve in ground roles, as Rogers did during the war.
Rogers was one of about 300 Tuskegee Airmen who lived to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, with his being awarded in November 2013.
Of the Tuskegee Airmen, 32 were captured by the Nazis, and 84 were either killed in action or from other causes, including accidents or on non-combat missions. The group flew 179 bomber escort missions, of which 172 ended without any losses to the bombers. Members of that group received 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, at least one Silver Star, and almost 750 Air Medals.
Advanced instruction turned student pilots into fighter pilots at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The 332nd Fighter Group first flew Bell P-39 Airacobras, then transitioned to the P-40 Warhawk, then the P-47 Thunderbolt, and finally to the P-51 Mustang.
The group shot down 112 enemy aircraft, destroyed 150 more on the ground, was credited with crippling an Italian destroyer, destroyed 950 ground vehicles, and sank or destroyed 40 boats and barges.
A bomber group of Tuskegee Airmen — the 477th — was slated to have four squadrons (the 616th, 617th, 618th, and 619th Bombardment Squadrons) of B-25 Mitchells, but it never saw combat.
All four Tuskegee Airmen fighter squadrons are still active. The 99th Flying Training Squadron flies T-1A Jayhawk trainers, the 100th Fighter Squadron is an F-16 unit with the Alabama Air National Guard, and the 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons are Air Force Reserve F-22 units.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing has assumed the lineage of the 332nd Fighter Group.
Can you see him? He sees you. | YouTube | Brent0331
Effective camouflage can be the difference between life and death in a combat situation. And for U.S. Marine Brent Downing, camouflage is also an art. An expert in camouflage techniques, Downing runs a YouTube segment called the “Camouflage Effectiveness Series” in which he documents techniques from militaries around the world.
Downing’s ability to hide in plain sight is amazing. We have compiled screenshots from some of his videos below. See if you can see him, because he sees you.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. As a result, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of its range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 Weapons Upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.
The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an Family Readiness Group (FRG) meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).
The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief
How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).
Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.
Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.
Mascots for the win
Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.
For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.
Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.
Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. The 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!
Maps, maps and more maps
The Army was once tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.
Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.
Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.
So there you have it. Five random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.
This is the third in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The military is like a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force and the Marine Corps. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Army (and how they should).
The easiest ways to make fun of the Army
Like the Marine Corps, the Army gets called ‘dumb’ a lot. Since they gave out a lot of waivers for the military entrance test in the early 2000s, this isn’t without merit. Also, soldiers try to defend themselves by pointing out all the tough Army jobs that require a surprising amount of intellect such as Special Forces or Satellite Communications Operator. Coming from most soldiers, this is kind of like a mailroom employee pointing out how smart the computer engineers at Google are.
Soldiers also get ridiculed for the admittedly useless uniform they wore for most of the Global War on Terror. All sorts of reasons were given for why it was secretly brilliant, but two other camouflage patterns outperformed the ACU in the Army’s own tests before it was fielded. Since the Marine Corps had just gotten their own sweet digital camouflage before the ACU was fielded, there were a lot of (quite possibly true) accusations of copy-catting.
Body fat is another area the Army takes a lot of flak. Even though their body fat standards are actually in line with the other services, photos like the one below and an Army motto of “Army Strong” just made the jokes too easy.
Speaking of which, quite a few Army slogans have been duds with service members. “Army of One” worked for recruiting the video game generation, but it supported a lone warrior ideal that is the opposite of how the Army fights. “Be All You Can Be,” was extremely successful and ran for twenty years, but like “Army Strong” it’s perfect for memes with fat soldiers.
Why to actually hate the Army
As the largest ground force in the U.S., the Army has a lot of control over what gear and weapons go to both soldiers and, in a few cases, the Marines. When they choose correctly, all troops from all the branches usually end up with better gear for patrols like these weapon sights that let shooters see enemies through smoke and dust.
This is stupid since soldiers screw this stuff up too. Regularly. And when they crash a truck in the mountains or desert, they can’t even use the excuse that their equipment was primarily designed for fighting amphibious battles.
Then there’s the fact that they operate not only on the ground, but also in the water, the air, and space. Army Airborne units provide contingency response forces for both the European/African theaters and the entire world. That’s before you count the Army Rangers who can break into an enemy country and topple its land forces in hours or days of fierce fighting with little rest.
When it’s time to fight more subtle conflicts, Green Berets can slip into foreign countries and begin training up friendly militias and armies, safeguarding American interests while limiting risk.
“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”
In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.
Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.
If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.
Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.
“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.
“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.
As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.
“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.
“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”
Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.
Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.
“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”
“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”
Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.
“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”
Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.
But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.
“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”
The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.
The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.
“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.
“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”
The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.
Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.
In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleships USS California (BB 44), USS West Virginia (BB 48), and USS Nevada (BB 36) were severely damaged while the battleships USS Arizona (BB 39) and USS Oklahoma (BB 37) were sunk.
Four of those ships would eventually be salvaged, three of which returned to service, thanks to the efforts of brave Navy divers.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the oldest living diver to have worked on that immense project, 103-year-old Ken Hartle, died on Jan. 24. He had been a ship-fitter when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and as a result, was unable to join the Navy until 1943 when his skills were necessary to repair ships that had suffered battle damage.
He later volunteered to be a Navy diver.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, Navy divers carried out over 4,000 dives, covering 16,000 hours to salvage the ships at Pearl Harbor. The operations were not without risk. The Union-Tribune report listed a number of dangers Hartle and fellow divers faced, including getting trapped in wreckage, the “bends,” and attacks from sea creatures — all while wearing uninsulated canvas suits and using 200-pound copper helmets and having breathable air pumped down to them.
Hartle was nothing if not a survivor. During his life, the Union-Tribune reported that he was kicked by a mule at age 3, stabbed in the neck during a brawl at age 9, survived a rattlesnake bite, a scorpion sting, a car accident that threw him several hundred feet, six bypass surgeries, two bouts with cancer, and a fall while trimming trees at age 97.
A memorial service for Hartle will be held on Mar. 4.
The Battle of Verdun lasted for nearly ten months in 1916 and according to some estimates, resulted in almost 950,000 casualties. In essence, it was perhaps the epitome of the trench warfare that dominated World War I.
Indeed, trench warfare really didn’t end until the emergence of the early tanks at the Battle of the Somme. Could some of America’s most modern armored fighting vehicles do better? Specifically, the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles.
The Germans committed over a million troops to the battle. The Stryker Brigade would have roughly 4,500 troops and 300 vehicles, most of which are M1126 Infantry Combat Vehicles. The vehicles couldn’t roam in the enemy rear — resupply would be very difficult at best. But those vehicles have technology that would enable them to decisively rout the German offensives.
The key to what the Stryker would use, would not be in mobility, but in the M151 Protector Remote Weapons Station. The Strykers primarily use the M2 heavy machine gun and Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. These outclass the MG 08 by a significant margin. Furthermore, they can be fired from within the Stryker, which negates one of Germany’s most powerful weapons in 1916: poison gas.
This is the second advantage the Stryker would have. The NBC protection capabilities in the Strykers would enable the defense to hold despite German chemical weapons. In essence, rather than facing incapacitated – or dead – defenders, the German troops would be going across “no man’s land” into mission-capable defenders.
Worse for them, the M2 heavy machine gun and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher would tear massed infantry attacks apart. The optics of the Protector remote weapons stations would allow the Americans to pick out the guys with flamethrowers first. In essence, the Strykers would be able to bleed the Germans dry.
It gets worse for the Germans when the inevitable counter-attack comes. The same optics what would let a Stryker gunner pick out a machine gun position and take it out. Here, the M1128 Mobile Gun Systems and M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles would also come into play, destroying bunkers. The M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier Vehicles would be able to lay down a lot of smoke and high-explosive warheads on targets.
In essence, the Stryker would drastically alter Verdun, not by its mobility, but by virtue of being a poison gas-proof pillbox.
China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.
Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.
Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.
But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).
Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.
Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.
For nearly two decades, the Picatinny/NATO Accessory Rail Interface System handguards have adorned U.S. military rifles. These rails allow troops to attach accessories like lights, lasers, and grips to the fore-end of their weapon. However, although the omnipresent rails allow the end user to easily configure their accessories to suit their needs, the fully railed handguard is a large block of metal at the front of a weapon. Any unused rail estate is simply dead weight. The solution is new modular rail systems like the KeyMod and M-Lok weapon accessory attachment systems. These systems allow the end user to attach rail segments to their handguard as needed or attach accessories directly to the slick handguard. Since their introduction, the KeyMod vs. M-Lok war has been waged in gun stores, armories, and internet forums. However, like the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war, there can only be one winner.
In 2016, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division conducted testing for USSOCOM to determine the best modular rail system. NSWC Crane evaluated handguards from manufacturers Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, and Seekins. Three KeyMod and three M-Lok handguards were tested from each manufacturer for a total of 18 handguards. They were tested for repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop testing, and static failure load.
Although a resilient handguard is not entirely necessary for the mounting of grips and lights, it is vital for mounting lasers aiming devices. Under night vision, it can be difficult for a rifleman to aim through their optic. An infrared laser mounted to the handguard allows the end user to shoot accurately without needing a proper sight picture, especially in close quarters. However, this method of aiming only works if the laser is properly zeroed. Because bullets are affected by gravity, unlike lasers, shooters must know where there rounds will fall relative to their laser based on the distance they are shooting. If the handguard bends or the laser is knocked and shifts even a few millimeters, a 200 meter shot could be completely off. Clip-on thermal scopes mounted to the top of the handguard also need to be mounted without risk of shifting. A good rail attachment system has to not only be secure, but strong.
During NSWC Crane’s testing, all handguards passed the full-auto fire endurance and rough handling testing. However, the repeatability, drop test, and failure load tests yielded distinct performance differences. Repeatability testing showed that “M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA (minute of angle), as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.” Drop testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.” Finally, failure load testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested.” The study went on to note that the test equipment mounted to the M-Lok rails “repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system.” Overall, the failure load of M-Lok was over three times that of KeyMod.
Released in 2017, the results of the study were a clear win for M-Lok. As a result, NSWC Crane recommended the M-Lok rail system over any other to USSOCOM. In turn, USSOCOM incorporated M-Lok handguards into new acquisitions like the Upper Receiver Group – Improved, Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, and the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The study has also influenced the civilian market which has seen a marked increase in the popularity of M-Lok handguards and accessories over KeyMod. As with most Special Forces acquisitions, the M-Lok system is likely to trickle down to regular troops too.
Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jenkins
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the undisputed king of close-air support.
But what you may not know is that the plane nearly wasn’t picked to handle close-air support – it had to compete with the Northrop A-9.
And that plane looks a heck of a lot like the one the Soviets picked to bust American tanks if the Cold War went hot.
So how does the Su-25 “Frogfoot” in service with Russia stack up against the A-10? Let’s take a look.
The big reason the A-10 won the A-X competition in 1973 was due to the fact that Fairchild had the design pretty well locked down. The plane was merged with the GAU-8 30mm Avenger cannon, given a very powerful bomb load (up to 16,000 pounds of cluster bombs, laser-guided bombs, iron bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and rockets). The A-10C, which entered service in 2005, added the ability to use Joint Direct Attack Munitions (GPS-guided smart bombs) and the Wind-Corrected Munition Dispensers (cluster bombs with GPS-guidance and a range of over 12 miles). The plane even carries AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense (although, Desert Storm proved that the GAU-8 can take down aircraft, too). In short, this is a plane that is designed to kill enemy tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and grunts.
The A-10 can not only dish out punishment, it can take it. Like the P-47 Thunderbolt, there are tales of terribly damaged A-10s bringing their pilots home. Perhaps the most famous example was the 2003 incident where Air Force Capt. Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell brought her A-10 home on manual reversion. The A-10 was designed to come home with serious battle damage – and it has.
The Su-25, though, is an interesting beast. The Soviets followed the A-X competition and decided they needed a plane like that of their own.
That said, they picked the loser of the competition to copy. The Su-25 carries about 9,000 pounds of bombs, rockets and missiles, including the AA-8 Aphid. It is a bit faster, hitting Mach .8 as opposed to the A-10’s Mach .56, and has a longer range (750 nautical miles to the A-10’s 695). Like the A-10, it, too, has a 30mm Gatling gun.
So, which plane is the better option? Let’s be very blunt here: The A-10 brings more payload and is tougher. The Frogfoot might be 40% faster than the Warthog, but it can’t outrun a Sidewinder, while an AA-8 is likely to just annoy the Warthog’s pilot and really infuriate the crew chief.
Let’s be honest, the Soviets made a knock-off of the losing design, and it would probably lose in a fight with an A-10, too.